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Old April 1st, 2003, 09:19 AM   #1
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PC Screen Capture to Video - What Works?

I need to get some illustrative, real-time sequences from software running in Windows into one of my projects. The output target is DVD-Video, viewable on TV (NTSC in my case).

I've tried some commerical products like Camtasia that work well, but most seem better suited to computer-based viewing than video. I'm not getting the compression I expected; I was hoping these tools would yield smaller files than taping the screen, for example. A key advantage of these software solutions is that I can capture the whole screen, a particular window, or an arbitrary region of the screen.

I also tried using the camcorder to record the output from my video card, sort of a poor man's digital video converter. The result was a bit fuzzy. This solution is only good for the whole screen, though.

How do the pros do this? Are there solutions that aren't budget busters?

Thanks.
Will
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Old April 1st, 2003, 09:36 AM   #2
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Grabbing moving screen images has always been a problem.

The most elegant solution is to use a Scan Converter which is a box that takes the output for the computer display and converts it to video.

The downside is you do not get anything but full-screen images (at least with the units I know about) and you do have to get a resonably decent quality unit. I've used one that is fairly good and cost around $100 IIRC.

A camcorder recording a LCD screen should give fairly good results. One can tape areas of interest on a screen just like any other scene. Of course if the screen image is of low resolution, you may start to see the pixels.

Why would you expect the images to be any more compressed than normal images? The rules of compression will apply to screen images just as they do to any video image. I probably don't understand.
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Old April 1st, 2003, 10:04 AM   #3
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Yes, I should have said "poor man's scan converter" in the original post.

I expected better compression because even though I'm looking for a smooth representation of what happens on the screen, at 30fps mostly nothing happens. For example, if I move the mouse cursor from one corner to the other, 99% of the screen is the same frame-to-frame. There could easily be some times when nothing at all changes for a few seconds, perhaps during some explanatory voice-over.

I tried Camtasia at 5fps and a key frame every 100 frames, which I think is one of its recommended settings. The file size was no smaller than straight video when compared in MPEG-2.

I also tried a couple of experiments with Hyperion's HyperCam but need to do more thorough testing. Another product from Creative Softworx called Capture Pro 5 began life as a still capture utility but now claims to do video; I downloaded it but haven't tried it, becoming discouraged by previous testing.

I'm using a GL2, so I should be able to use the clear scan feature. Screen resolution is 1024x768 at 60Hz, so I might not even need clear scan. I'm stuck with that resolution because the particular piece of software requires it and won't scale either up or down (strange but true).

Will
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Old April 1st, 2003, 06:07 PM   #4
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What type of video card do you have?

I know that ATI has a video out that you can connect to a TV then instead of connecting it to the tv you connect your camera or vcr.


Rob:D
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Old April 1st, 2003, 06:27 PM   #5
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Right you are. I have an Xtasy nVidia Ti4400 card. It does have video out, and I have tried that with the camcorder. I got slightly fuzzy results, not good enough for my purposes.

I've drawn the assumption, without actually testing, that if I dropped my display resolution I would get a better image. Unfortunately, changing my resolution isn't an option.
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Old April 1st, 2003, 09:43 PM   #6
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Well I know on my ATI board it works great. Had my friend with a laptop try it as well and his looked good to. no change in resolution. But then again ATI has been dealing with TV in and out longer than most.
I have a 166Mhz with 8mb ATI all in wonder. That board can capture and go out at half rez. I bet if they made a newer driver I could capture full resolution and display at full rez. This was way before anything remotely dv.

Good luck,
Rob:D
PS- try newer drivers.
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Old April 2nd, 2003, 08:29 AM   #7
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PC Screen Capture to Video - What Works?

Will, is it possible that your dissatisfaction with Camtasia captures relates to the distortion of square pixels displayed non-square on an NTSC monitor?
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Old April 2nd, 2003, 08:42 AM   #8
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That's an excellent question, but I don't think so. I didn't notice an apsect ratio problem. I noticed very poor handling of graduated blends (they got turned into very obvious stepped bands) and a general fuzziness of the image.
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Old January 6th, 2004, 02:34 PM   #9
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Canopus TwinPact100

Greetings, DVInfoers, and Happy New Year to all!

The new year finds me still struggling with my PC screen capture problems. I'm making this post to bring the topic to the top and to add one piece of new information.

Canopus recently announced a new hardware product, the TwinPact100 "Multifunctional digital video converter." It's so new I'm having trouble finding out anything about it. If anyone has tried this device, I'd sure appreciate hearing about your experiences.

And I'm still looking for that free or inexpensive solution. Any new ideas?

Thanks.
Will
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Old January 6th, 2004, 02:55 PM   #10
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I captured on my XM2 from video out on my GeForce 4. Fairly good results, although the image is of course blurry compared to the original due to less resolution.

There are also software solutions that might work for you. One I can recall is:

http://www.fraps.com/

Never tried it. Just know it is used to capture game video to file.
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Old January 6th, 2004, 03:36 PM   #11
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Many thanks, Hans. I've queried FRAPS to see if it meets my needs.

I was intrigued by one of the testimonials at the site that compared FRAPS to Camtasia extremely favorably. That made me sit up and take notice.

Will
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Old January 22nd, 2004, 05:34 PM   #12
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I have investigated both FRAPS and the most current version of Camtasia.

The author of FRAPS was very candid in saying that FRAPS is not a good general purpose screen capture solution. It was designed to capture gameplay. In particular, it does not always capture video running in a window, so it would have a problem capturing the preview window in an NLE, something I need.

Camtasia has been substantially upgraded since I first tested it. It was easier to use and seems to give better results. Gary Kleiner used Camtasia to produce Mobile Pro Video's "A Quick-Start Guide to Sonic Foundry's Non-Linear Editing Software" video, which features Vegas and which I own. The results on that video seem to be as good as anything else I've seen given the difficulty of representing 1024x768 or higher video in 720x480 DV.

I still have more work to do to fully understand Camtasia.

The Canopus TwinPact100 continues to look interesting, but getting information is like pulling teeth. After several calls, a salesman finally took pity on me and faxed about half the manual. It was a pretty bad fax and did not help much. The main thing I'm wondering is if the quality of the image will be better than that of Camtasia.

Will
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Old January 23rd, 2004, 06:43 AM   #13
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I like my Camtasia Studio 1.1, although I've had no reason to use it lately, but Mike Velte has often mentioned Hypercam in responding to this question, and Mike's opinion is always worth listening to. I know nothing else about it but it hasn't been mentioned in this thread so...

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Old January 23rd, 2004, 07:25 AM   #14
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I use hypercam and have great results with it.

It's inexpensive and will capture just about anything. You may need to refer to the help occasionally to tweak the settings of your media players for some of the more challenging situations.
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Old January 23rd, 2004, 08:43 AM   #15
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HyperCam is high on my list because of its cost. It does seem to work well.

However, I immediately ran into one problem I couldn't seem to get around. When capturing areas of the screen that contain a gradient, HyperCam's capture loses the gradient and replaces it with steps of color. This happens in the title bar on windows in Windows XP, although there it is not very obvious.

It is much more obvious when capturing screens from Pinnacle Studio 8, where gradients are used extensively to give a three-dimensional effect. The capture looks terrible. Because my project requires capture of Studio 8, I'd give an inappropriate impression of the product if I used those captures.

The gradient is captured properly in Camtasia.
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